Circulation Code: a tactical guide for economically vulnerable architecture
Our economy produces a volatile landscape for architecture. In the worst of times businesses go bankrupt, houses get foreclosed, and factories become vacant. In the best of times obsolete buildings get demolished to make room for new economic ventures. When the flow of people is disrupted by economic volatility architecture becomes vulnerable. This vulnerability stems from the fact that buildings rely on the flow of capital, energy, maintenance, and material brought by people when they circulate to and from a building. The moment of interchange between global economic forces and the brick and mortar of a building takes place when a person enters through a door, ascends a stair, or rides an elevator. In this way the codes which govern circulation – door widths, stairs, elevators, and hand rails – are the fundamental way architecture interacts with the economy. These codes were originally developed and amended for safety concerns, but could be adapted to increase, diversify, and strengthen circulation to buildings and through buildings. In an increasingly dematerialized world in which more commerce, interaction, and exchange take place virtually, buildings must strive to remain relevant by being desirable as places for people to visit. There are two tactics, which are not mutually exclusive, that architecture can use to create desirable experiences and engage people in circulation. One is to create codes that facilitate an increase in the volume of transactions which occur inside of buildings. The other tactic is to dampen the influence of the economy by making codes that encourage non-transactional circulation through creation of public access and event programming.